Stories and experiences

Maggie: Accessing services as a deaf person

"As someone with severe hearing loss, one of my main headaches is the default means of communication for the majority of firms and organisations being the telephone.

"While there are speech-to-text apps and it is possible to arrange to have a phone conversation using technology, this can be cumbersome and frustrating. My preferred mode of communication is by text or email unless I can see the person speaking in order to lip read. I have lost count of the number of times I have asked for a text or email response and had a follow-up phone call.

"Using health services can be a challenge where the only way to get an appointment may be by phone. With persistence and after several letters and emails I can now have a video call with my GP, and have had face-to-face hospital consultations, although with a much longer wait than if I had been able to have a phone call.

"Many people get round the problem by having a friend or family member to make the call for them, but this is not always practical and there are matters which may be too private for that to happen. Hearing difficulties should not result in loss of independence."

Nigel: Support from a communicator guide from Sense

"I wear hearing aids, have tunnel vision, Type 1 Diabetes and have to eat gluten-free food.

"People speak very fast and I don't always understand what they are saying, which puts a lot of pressure on me and makes me worry. I've been so worried since lockdown, the things on the news scare me, so I am glad my Sense Communicator Guide Jane has been able to visit all the time to make sure I am okay and explain things to me. 

"Jane helps me every Thursday and we chat a lot which makes me feel happier. I know I can talk to her about anything and she will always listen and help me to understand, as I have a learning disability and low literacy so I need help to understand what people say on the phone, when I meet them or in the letters that arrive. 

"Jane helped me move into my home, get furniture, sort out bills and lots of stuff. I am very happy with her. I like people to talk to which helps me cope and worry less and to do the things I need. I try to always be brave and go for it."

Jane: Experiences with a hearing aid

"I'm Jane, I’m 56 and I’m at the height of my career, having been a director for a local company and now running my own business. I also wear a hearing aid.

"I actually have above average hearing for background noise (such as a car passing, or a kettle boiling or a door slamming). But very poor hearing for softer sounds, such as hearing you speaking to me. I feel so isolated.

"Here are a few things I did not expect about hearing aids:

  1. That my hearing aid would come flying out of my ear each time I took my facemask off. Solution: I don’t bother wearing my hearing aid when I wear my mask. Face masks and hearing aids are seriously incompatible.
  2. I thought that my hearing would be completely sorted once I had my hearing aid fitted. Don’t get me wrong; my hearing aid helps, but it certainly does not fix my hearing.
  3. When you first get your hearing aid, everything sounds so loud. I had forgotten how beautifully the birds sing. A spoon clattering to the floor is absolutely deafening.
  4. To have to take extra care when crossing roads. I was not prepared for the distortion of the direction of sound. Sometimes I can't work out which way a car is approaching or even if it is a car that I am actually hearing.
  5. I had no idea how fiddly maintaining a hearing aid would be. Minute tubes to be unscrewed, tiny pipes to be fed through tiny tubes. Little slots to fit tiny batteries in. I regularly say to my husband, “If I am 56 and I struggle with this every week, how on earth is someone of 80 supposed to cope”.
  6. How quickly the batteries run out. Less than a week; I am forever changing them.
  7. How much I rely on lip reading. I hear better when I wear my glasses."

Lucy: Living with a hearing dog

"I've had Cazzie for six years. She's a golden Labrador; her father was a guide dog and her mother was a hearing dog. Hearing Dogs have their own breeding programme so they know the dog’s history.

"My life was very different before I had Cazzie. I didn’t like going outside, I couldn’t hear people behind me. I slept very badly and after waking from a nightmare would not be able to hear anything to either worry or reassure me so would need to get up, put on the light and then check all was okay in the house. I must admit I felt very low and anxious, I also felt lonely and isolated.

"Life is brilliant now. I don’t feel sad or scared and definitely not so lonely. I love people coming up to me now and talking to me, I feel like a human being again. I sleep better and with walking Cazzie every day I have lost weight and feel fitter.

"If you would like to know more, please visit the Hearing Dogs website. There are puppies to see and you may like to support us in some way."